10 books to read before you become a parent


If parenting is in your future, one thing is for sure: you want to be prepared. But most experienced parents will tell you that it’s nearly impossible to be truly prepared for the complex, beautiful, humbling journey of raising a child.

While it’s true that parenting is an experience that’s unique to everyone — and it involves a lot of figuring things out as you go — you can give yourself a leg up with some strategic reading. Thanks to a library’s worth of books touching on nearly every facet of parenting, you can read up in advance on the basics, while discovering well-researched parenting approaches to the tough stuff — like sleep, discipline, feeding, and mental health

Below, we’re sharing some of the best parenting books out there that we consider to be essential reading for parents and parents-to-be.

Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong — and What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster

Emily Oster, award-winning economist and professor at Brown University, set out to debunk long-standing parenting myths in this New York Times bestseller. Her approach puts power back into the hands of parents by arming them with real data, so that they can feel informed when determining what is best for their baby, themselves, and their family. 

Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool by Emily Oster

For fans of Expecting Better, or any parent who’s laser-focused on learning more about the research-backed dos and don’ts of sleep, Oster’s follow-up best-seller Cribsheet is a must-read. Few parenting topics are more controversial than sleep, which can lead us to fall victim to believing all sorts of untrue concepts about how to get our babies to sleep and to sleep well. In true Oster form, she breaks down the science on sleep training as well as other sleep tactics to give parents the opportunity to make smart and informed decisions free of judgment. 

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to raise a baby in a different country than your own, and how unique that experience might be? What might it teach you about your own parenting wants and wishes? In this New York Times bestseller, author Pamela Druckerman recounts her own experience of raising a child in Paris amidst French culture, observing some surprising differences in behavior, judgment, sleep, education, and maternal support.   

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel. M.D., and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.

Written by two parenting experts, including a neuroscientist and a professional educator, this highly acclaimed book teaches parents how to use everyday experiences to teach their children to become smarter, more compassionate and well-adjusted humans. The book offers age-appropriate guidance and explanations for dealing with day-to-day struggles. Consider it a guide to turning some of your hardest days into your biggest parenting wins. 

When Partners Become Parents: The Big Life Change for Couples by Carolyn Pape Cowan and Philip A. Cowan

Here’s a parenting book that’s stood the test of time. Originally released in 1992 by a married couple who also happen to be researchers, the Cowans share the insights they gained by following a group of couples who were expecting their first child — while simultaneously following another group of couples who were undecided when it came to parenting. In the process, they uncover some of the fundamental tenets of creating a happy, healthy relationship that withstands the strains that sometimes come with parenting. 

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior

Author Jennifer Senior, a contributing editor at New York Magazine, breaks down what it means to be a parent in today’s day and age — and how it’s gotten so complicated. Lively and well-researched, Senior’s book combines the latest scholarship with anecdotes from her own experience, as well as interviews with real parents across the country. Prepare to question what you may have been told about how parenting “should be” — and get inspired by the stories of families who reject the pressure to be perfect. 

The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home by Arlie Hochschild and Anne Machung

Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of mothers now work full-time, moms are still being thrown the bulk of the parenting share, which is not only unfair, but also unsustainable. This book analyzes how traditional roles and expectations continue to create tension among modern couples, especially parents, and suggests ways to create a healthier, more balanced family life. 

Precious Little Sleep: The Complete Baby Sleep Guide for Modern Parents by Alexis Dubief

Sleep is one thing most parents are not getting enough of, so any book on the topic is sure to be popular. This practical, much-recommended guide by sleep expert Alexis Dubief is friendly and informative. Dubief clarifies what’s really going on when a baby is having trouble sleeping, while offering evidence-based advice for creating a sleep schedule and helping your baby sleep through the night.

The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama: Redefining the Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum Journey by the editors of Motherly

Reading this comprehensive, inclusive guide to pregnancy and early parenting from the editorial team behind the award-winning Mother.ly website is like having a compassionate parenting expert friend on personal speed dial. The book’s emphasis is on supporting the pregnant person through all the changes and challenges of pregnancy and birth — with special attention paid to the transformative fourth trimester, or postpartum period. If you’re looking for a modern pregnancy guide that focuses on the parents’ health and well-being as well as the baby’s, the Motherly team has your (aching) back.

The Highly Sensitive Parent: Be Brilliant in Your Role, Even When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Arnon, Ph.D.

Clinical psychologist Elaine N. Arnon reveals the secrets of parenting while highly sensitive, sharing how to tell if you happen to be highly sensitive, as well as coping mechanisms for how to handle the often overstimulating life of a parent. From how to drown out judgments to how to keep baby cries from overwhelming you, this book is super helpful for tackling year one and beyond, whether you’re highly sensitive or just having an extra tough parenting day.

Parenting hack

A smart crib that learns your
baby’s sleep patterns to help
them sleep longer.
Welcome to Cradlewise.


You may also like


Stay in the know

Sign up to get sleep tips, exciting product updates, and special offers right into your inbox.